LIFE AFTER by Katie Ganshert is a contemporary Christian novel which tells the story of survivor guilt and the healing stages of grief. Autumn Manning is the sole survivor of a random act of terror on a Chicago commuter train. While she has no memories of the accident, Autumn has been told that she left work early that day. Yet it was a later commuter train that she was on when a bomb exploded and killed all passengers except her. Where had she spent those several hours? Why was she on that train? And why did she survive and not someone else? Those thoughts and more haunt her every waking hour. As the first anniversary of that date approaches, Autumn's family voice their concern over her inability to move beyond that terrible day. Finally accepting their advice, Autumn sees a counselor. "Autumn rubbed her knuckles, then found a dry piece of skin near the middle of her left pinkie and began picking. By the time this appointment was through, she'd need Band-Aids for all ten of her fingers. She didn't want to worry her family or visit cemeteries at night or wake up at three in the morning in a cold sweat." (p.45) Soon after the appointment, Reese, the young daughter of a woman who died in the bombing comes to see Autumn and makes the suggestion that someone make a tribute video remember all those who died. In an attempt to face her survivor's guilt, Autumn takes on that task. In doing so, she learns about the "ordinary" people who lost their lives that day and the people they left behind. In doing so, she enters into the lives of Paul, Reese, and Tate -- the family who for a few hours believed their mom and wife had survived, only to learn later that it was Autumn who was unconscious at the hospital. As she gets closer to Paul and his children, Autumn learns that reaching out to others who are suffering may be the only way to heal oneself.
Katie Ganshert herself says she set out to create a story that showed God "weeps with the hurting," and she has succeeded. A few years ago, I blogged about one of Ganshert's first novels, saying that I loved her writing, but that I hoped she would move beyond simple romance and begin writing novels with depth, especially ones with complicated characters. She has done that and more! I was lucky to score a copy of this novel from our library system; LIFE AFTER was just published and is sure to be a popular read throughout 2017.